Monthly Archives: June 2014

When it Comes to Your Sailing Education, You’re the Boss!

One of the most important parts of beginning your sailing education is finding the right sailing school. Every individual has different strengths, weaknesses, needs, and ideal learning methods. Likewise, every sailing school has different instructors, courses, boats, and teaching methods. Even a school’s location can affect your sailing education. For example, learning to sail in San Francisco Bay’s heavy winds _MG_7819might scare one student and motivate another. Here at ASA, we want to provide every sailor with a sailing education that conforms to their needs and inspires them to continue sailing. We know this for sure: you know yourself, and we know sailing. So it’s up to you to determine where you will be happiest and learn the most.

Aside from perusing each sailing school’s website, the best way you can determine what school is the best fit is by calling them. It might seem a little old fashioned to the younger generation, but by talking to a human being you will be able to get all your questions answered and get a real feel for the school. You are essentially interviewing each school for the opportunity to teach you how to sail. That’s one of the huge benefits of learning to sail with ASA… We have so many schools that you always have a choice! Continue reading

Guanabara Bay: A Reminder to Preserve our Seas

“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.” –John F. Kennedy

As sailors, we are inextricably linked to the ocean. On the most basic level, we need it to practice the sport we love. Even more importantly, we need a healthy ocean. Not just for the sake of our passion, but for the sake of our planet and the generations to come. Recent reports from Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro’s 2016 Olympic Sailing venue, bring to light the contamination of our seas and its influence on even the most highly regarded regattas.

You won't find clear water or healthy sea life in Guanabara Bay.
You won’t find clear water or healthy sea life in Guanabara Bay.

Rio’s first official test event at Guanabara Bay will take place in less than three months, and it is still dangerously polluted. Most visibly, dead animals, tires, couches, and other large discarded items litter the bay. If left as-is, the debris will be more than an eyesore; it will likely alter the race results as well. If a boat collided with a partially submerged object, it would surely affect the outcome of the race in such a competitive fleet. Likewise, even small plastic bags can slow boats and inhibit steering by wrapping around blades. Appallingly, this isn’t the worst part of sailing in the bay. Almost seventy percent of Rio’s untreated sewage goes directly into the ocean, and Guanbara Bay’s sewage levels are consistently over the legal limit, which is much more lenient in Brazil than in the United States. Contact with this extremely contaminated water can cause Hepatitis A, cholera, dysentery and a multitude of other diseases. Sailors will without a doubt be exposed to the harmful water while competing, causing a worldwide outcry for more water testing and a change of venue. International sailors have referred to the sailing site as an open sewer, and even Brazilian sailors have spoken out in condemnation of Brazil’s inability to make good on promises for clearer and cleaner water for the 2016 games. For more information, check out this Guanabara Bay footage.

The buzz surrounding Guanabara Bay applies to more than just Olympians. It serves as a reminder to us all that we cannot reverse the damage our species has done to the ocean. It would take over a decade to significantly decrease Guanbara Bay’s pollution, and the wildlife and pure quality of water will never return. Imagine sailing through miles of murky water filled with debris. Instead of enjoying the smell of the ocean and the occasional salty spray, you cower away from the diseased water. There is no sea life in sight. A world without clean, healthy seas is a world without sailing the way we know and love it today. We are lucky enough to have the biggest playing field in the world, and it is our job to make sure it remains untainted.

Here are 10 easy ways you can help: Save the Ocean

Sources: USA Today, NY Times, National Geographic

Docking: Or, How You Can Learn to Stop Worrying and Love the Marina

Once, while sailing in the San Juan Islands, I saw something I’ll never forget. A powerboater cruised into the dock at high speed with his wife on the stern, line in hand, ready to tie up. As they approached, he seemed to realize, far too late, how fast he was going, and turned abruptly in order to prevent the boat’s momentum from carrying it into the dock itself. His wife, expecting the dock to be there, casually stepped into thin air. She barely made a splash, and still held the line coiled in her hand.

ASA sailors at the dock at the Pine Island Sound flotilla
ASA sailors at the dock during the Pine Island Sound flotilla

We pulled her out of the water, shocked but completely fine. (Their marriage, on the other hand…I didn’t stick around for that part.) The incident left a strong impression on me. Roaring up to the dock might be some people’s idea of fun, but a true mariner approaches such things carefully and with respect for his/her craft, crew, and the sea itself.

A perfect day’s sailing might go something like this: blue skies, with some fluffy white clouds casting their deep shadows on the water, gentle, rolling seas, a steady breeze at around 15 knots, the skyline of some iconic city, or maybe the green cliffsides of a tropical island, as a backdrop. Good friends and a trusty crew along for the ride (all ASA certified, naturally). What could be better?

Member photo of St. Martin during ASA event
Member photo of St. Martin during ASA event

The best way to cap such an idyllic day would be to execute a perfect docking maneuver, earning the awe and admiration of your neighbors in the marina. Too often, though, we see other boaters (and sometimes even ourselves) giving what appear to be lessons in how NOT to dock. If it’s not the hotshot in his powerboat blazing in at high speed, it’s “The Drifter,” who knocks aimlessly into other boats, or “The Rammer,” who just plows into the dock and counts on it to stop his momentum. Docking is one of the most intimidating aspects of sailing for many newcomers – getting that giant boat into that (seemingly) tiny slip!

However, at its most basic level, docking is very simple: it’s about keeping the boat off of the land, while you step ashore, and it’s an essential skill for any sailor. If we keep that in mind as our baseline goal, obvious as it may seem, the more complex techniques in docking a sailboat will fall into line.

So how can you learn to dock like an expert? Get ASA’s Docking Endorsement (ASA 118)!

With this endorsement you’ll learn the most important principles of docking, and get the hands-on practice you need to master this critical skill:

  • Understanding the forces acting on the boat while docking
  • Learning which forces you can control, and how to use them to your advantage
  • How to handle the lines and tie the relevant knots
  • All safety considerations and procedures
  • Avoiding collision or grounding (keeping the boat off of the land)
  • Docking while dealing with different types of wind (wind pushing you onto the dock, cross wind, etc)
  • Docking in different attitudes (side-on to the dock, bow into a slip, etc)

So don’t be The Hotshot, the Drifter, the Rammer, or any other docking stereotype. Well, maybe just one: the Captain, that man or woman who guides the boat safely, confidently, and impressively into place, with a minimum of panic, pandemonium, and stress.

Contact your local ASA sailing school to see if they offer a Docking Endorsement!